As bookkeeping business owners, our time is literally money. I hope that by now, you are moving away from charging by the hour, and know that it’s time for us to price our services based on the value it provides our clients and their businesses. If you are already doing that, wonderful! If you haven’t and would like to learn more about value-based pricing, check out this webinar.

When your clients are not paying for your time, it means that the onus is on YOU to maximise your own productivity. Simply put, the less time you spend on a task or on any particular client, the more you can earn. But that doesn’t mean taking shortcuts and under-delivering on the value you’ve promised your clients either! So how do you ensure that you deliver on time, accurately, and consistently?

The answer is to automate your daily workflow.

What does ‘automating workflows’ even mean?

This is a term that is becoming increasingly popular, especially since the rise of cloud bookkeeping and accounting softwares that initially threatened to take over our jobs. But our profession is still going strong because many of us have learnt that these softwares have also provided us with an opportunity to take our professional roles to the next level – going from data-entry to take on a more advisory role that specialises in compliance and quality assurance.

Automating your workflow means to have a process in place for everything you do in the office. It is to allow things to happen without too much input or direction from you because there is an organised system for tasks to flow through the office. This ensures that everything is done consistently, nothing is forgotten, and that there’s less room for human error.

Automating your workflows can do many things for you and your business. It can capture all your clients’ information, allowing you to create a centralised database that allows all your employees to be able to access necessary data for their jobs.

You can create checklists within jobs that can be set as recurring, or save these checklists as templates to be used over and over again.

You can create dashboards that allow you to see where each job is up to and when it needs to move to the next stage within your office.  

The benefits of automating workflows

I can think of many great benefits that workflow automation offers, and little to no downsides.

  1. Freedom. You no longer have to be there on a day-to-day basis, handling the minutiae of paperwork, data-entry, etc. This allows you to live the lifestyle you’ve always wanted and to have time to really grow your business.
  2. Efficiencies and productivity. Your business efficiencies will sky-rocket, as will your productivity. In fact, not just yours, but for your employees as well! Less time is spent chasing up paperwork and manually entering data, which equates to fewer resources spent on manpower, and more time spent on higher-level work, which in turn is an opportunity to create more income.
  3. Reduce human error. None of us is 100% perfect. Not me, not you, not your superstar employee. So human error is bound to occur, and part of our job is to carefully audit the work done to ensure these errors are picked up and corrected in time. But once the workflow is properly automated, these errors can be significantly reduced, thus making your quality control job that much easier.
  4. Reduce duplications. Ah, the proverbial hamster wheel. The eternal Groundhog Day. Every day, your job consists of more of the same. The same tasks over and over again, albeit for different clients. Automating your workflows means that much of this drone work gets done by, well, drones. And you get to apply your smarts to more higher-order thinking tasks without burning out and getting bored. Win-win!

Why we need to automate

Okay, I hear you. If those benefits listed above are not that attractive to you because you kind of enjoy that sort of work, here’s why you need to automate.

First and foremost, the technology is out there now. Whether you like it or not, it’s there and people will use it. Businesses and bookkeepers and accountants alike. Not keeping up with it and making use of it to your advantage puts you at a disadvantage.

Next, I’ve learnt that automating my workflow ensures that I can avoid working reactively. I’m not putting out fires at every turn and stressing out constantly.

It also helps us avoid common mistakes and inconsistency, as well as keep us well abreast of the progress of each task, so we know where each task is up to at a single glance.

5 simple steps to start automating your workflow now

  1. Implement an online software. There is a number of great software out there right now, including Xero Practice Manager, Karbon, Practice Ignition, etc. Do some research and make a short list of all your options.
  2. Record all the steps you go through in a logical and clear manner. Create a flow-chart if it helps you visualise each of the mini-tasks that are involved in the particular project/task.
  3. Have triggers that set the next process to commence. For example: supervisor to review the work when the task gets to a certain stage of completion.
  4. Document and create a process for everything you do. If you do something multiple times, it’s time to create a process!
  5. Monitor the results. Make adjustments where necessary based on the results you see. Not one system works for everyone!

So in short, here’s your problem. You need to spend less time doing simple, recurring tasks and more time growing your business. You need to reduce errors and increase efficiencies. And one way to start solving these problems is to start automating your business workflows.

If you need an over-the-shoulder tutorial that shows you exactly how to take these first steps, click here

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